From The Editor
Gerard Kugel, DMD, MS, PhD
This month, Inside Dentistry continues its examination of marketing within the industry with a look at how direct-to-consumer promotions impact what and how patients learn about dental products and procedures. As our cover feature elaborates for us, marketing and advertising of dentist-dispensed products or therapies is a natural segue from the consumer-oriented messages more broadly disseminated by the pharmaceutical industry beginning in the late 1990s.
Why it’s Interesting. What’s taking place with direct-to-consumer marketing is relevant to dentistry because it works, and patients are independently seeking out information about products, procedures, and therapies they’re interested in. Never before has there been a greater wealth of information—and sometimes misinformation—available to the public about anything health-related, whether general or oral. Add to the mix targeted, paid messages designed to pique interest in a specific brand and you’ve got the driving force that could push patients into your practice with questions and desires. The dental industry is selling and consumers are, well, consuming—or at least they’re expressing an active interest.
Be Wary of Dental Claims. In the August 15, 2007 edition of Journal Watch General Medicine, Allan S. Brett, MD, commented that the big problem with direct-to-consumer advertising and drug promotion to physicians is the manipulation of information in ways that overstate the benefits, indications, and appropriate patient populations.1 He recognized that direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs is perhaps the most controversial form of pharmaceutical marketing in the United States. Dentistry, as an industry and a profession, owes it to itself to learn from the successes and failures of “big pharma” and do direct-to-consumer better and smarter. If a product or technique is being advertised to patients as the “end all, be all,” then dentists need to learn about it and evaluate whether it’s really all it claims to be. Our patients will benefit from our understanding of whether or not the product or service they’re interested in is worthy of the investment of their time, money, and oral health. We, as a profession, must also hold the dental manufacturers accountable for their claims and, when necessary, be ready to challenge those companies misrepresenting the benefits of their products.
Looking Ahead. We’re definitely in an information society now, so the volume of direct-to-consumer messages is most likely going to increase. There will be challenges and opportunities along the way. However, we have opportunities to use the information swirling around us to help clarify what is meant by good oral health and hygiene practices. We can take advantage of messages from manufacturers to consumers by diligently examining our patients and offering those treatments or therapies that are truly in their best interest. And, if these messages deliver knowledge that’s new to us, then we can take the steps necessary to enhance our skills and remain current with what is considered state-of-the-art.
We hope you enjoy this issue and find that it stimulates your examination of how direct-to-consumer marketing of dental products and procedures could impact your practice and your patients. We also hope you consider it a fitting continuation of our coverage of marketing within the dental industry overall. Please send us your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your thoughts, opinions, and reactions are our motivations to continually enhance our clinical content and coverage of today’s topics of interest. Thank you for reading and, most of all, thank you for your continued support.
With warm regards,
Gerard Kugel, DMD, MS, PhD
Associate Dean for Research
Tufts University School of Dental Medicine
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